In A Different Place
Atmosphere Inspired Songs From The NW
One of the more depressing aspects of the media-driven grunge “explosion” of the early nineties was the promising musical movements that it ended up steamrolling right over. Second-wave American death metal and dream pop were just struggling to break out of the underground when Pearl Jam pretty much stagnated the scene for years to come. It was a goddamn shame that having Lush and the Jesus and Mary Chain on the second Lollapalooza was essentially a death knell for the scene rather than a triumphant celebration. But fear not, because karma is a strange mistress. Out of the same geographic locale that is responsible for killing it, comes this beautiful look back/forward manifesto from a commune of Pacific Northwest area bands who want to bring the clock back again and right some wrongs.
The Turn Ons’ “New Jesus” drinks deep from the cup of the Jesus and Mary Chain, circa “Almost Gold,” in terms of guitar hum and buzz, gorgeous songcraft, never-ending waves of bliss and even vocal diction. It’s beautiful stuff, and was/is greatly missed, and gone way too soon. Telephone plies a spaced-out new wave hybrid that reminds me of a less ha-ha Rentals. Weirdsville. Silversurfer’s “Periwinkle” mines the low-fi grittiness of early Mary Chain (and almost discovers the hidden Suicide link), all tinny drum machine and sinister vocal insinuations percolating underneath grimy guitar fuzz and churn. Voyager One brings the Primal Scream, and with Byrds-y guitar fighting to be heard above some dense grooves — that’s a good thing. Even better is the High Violets’ “Gravity.” It’s more lush than Lush, if you catch my drift. It’s like the best dream you’ve never heard: two female vocalists harmonize over swirling guitar bands and a liquid gold bassline. Long may they burn!
More Mary Chain worship from Hypatia Lake! (I’m not complaining.) “Thinking On A Monday (Red Apple Mix)” is their Psychocandy or “Just Like Honey,” lo-fi minimalism executed with full-on Spector ambition. It’s, of course, gorgeous. You need this song. Man of the Year throws out oblique Weezer-isms, with dollops of the Drop Nineteens and some Matthew Sweet thrown in for good measure. Hmmm. James Angell, on the other hand, seems to be positioning himself as more of the lone-wolf-crooner of the scene. It’s interesting, cuz with “Hiding In Plain Sight,” more dramatic shapes are thrown, heartbreaking piano is employed and those lyrics are something else, delivered confidently, if not louchely.
Upside of Down’s “Duchess of York” is every bit as comforting and warm as Spacemen 3’s more reflective moments and the Velvet of Underground’s unmatched moment of genius, “Ocean.” Watch for the girl/boy vocals, finally! Sushirobo boasts a killer lyric about burning so many witches “that I can’t wash off the smell” and a disorienting bassline. Nordic depart from the more Anglo-centric mold of shoegazing, and do a credible impression of the Blood Group at their bruised but danceable best. The Jolenes are early nineties alterna-rock; the Hole revival starts now. Champarticles rework the bassline to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sidewalking,” and build a whole song around it. Cool with me. Black Nite Crash’s “Some Days” is a fabulous homage to Ride’s Nowhere, a storm of lo-fi guitars and underwater vocals reaching for cosmic grandeur. Those were the days. Saturna’s “Gamma Ray Afterglow” is a leftover from the sessions that produced Lush’s Spooky, apparently. And I don’t mean that in a bitchy way; the vocals are fucking aching and laden with filigree and shadow, and the chorus is a beautiful spiral. “Watsonville Patio” by Until There’s Nothing really shocks me by taking that crucial step beyond (admittedly beautiful homage) into unfamiliar territory. In this case, it’s a cool hybrid of baggy and mysterious windswept desert rock a-la Giant Sand. So you’ve got an awesome song title calling to mind concrete walkways glistening with dew under orange streetlights in the late night small hours soundtracked by a voice that’s equal parts Hope Sandoval and Loretta Lynn and music that’s a rustic ambient shuffle through loneliness. “King Black Acid” by Into The Sun sounds like Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” in parts; it’s like Soul Asylum on ‘ludes. Neeeeext! Shit, that’s the last track! But the best dreams always end on a vaguely unfulfilling note, don’t they?
Reverb Records: www.reverbrecords.net